May is glorious. Flowers such as roses, peonies, nasturtiums, and irises bloom and fade. In his poem “May,” Kim Young-rang sang, “The roads turned red as we entered the village, and the alleys turned green as we descended into the fields.
Forty-five years ago, in May 1978, a new flower bloomed in Korean golf. The first female professional golfer was born. Until then, professional golfers were exclusively male. In November 1975, the Korean Professional Golf Association (KPGA) decided through its board of directors to develop and select a female professional golfer, and the result was the Women’s Professional Trials, held on May 25-26, 1978, at the Royal (now Lakewood) Country Club in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province. Thirteen players tried out and four were accepted. Kang Chun-ja was tied with Han Myung-hyun and Koo Ok-hee, but she birdied the last hole for the best score (155). She was awarded the honor of member number 1. He was followed by Han Myung-hyun, Koo Ok-hee, and Ahn Jong-hyun.
At the time, a sports newspaper broke the news with the headline, “Four girls golfers born for the first time in Korean golf history. The newspaper said, “For the first time in the history of Korean golf, four female professionals have been born. The young professionals, who were selected in a test match by the Professional Golf Association (PGA), are named Kang Chun-ja, Koo Ok-hee, Han Myung-hyun, and Ahn Jong-hyun. They have been practicing for two to four years and have passed the long-awaited professional test,” he wrote. He went on to detail their grades, affiliations, teachers, and schools of origin. For example, he wrote about Kang Chun-ja: “155 strokes (78-77), member of the Horse Society, tutored by Tae-ho Cho, graduated from Seongdong Women’s College, trained for three years, 164 cm, 57 kg.
Kang Chun-ja, a former representative of the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Tour (KLPGT), recalled, “The day I passed the test in first place, the weather was very nice.” She was looking forward to becoming a professional, but the reality was disastrous: there was only one tournament that year, the KLPGA Championship, and three the following year in 1979. “I practiced like crazy for a long time and became a professional, but it was sad that there were no tournaments to play in,” Kang said. Those were the days when he had a stomachache from Boritgogae. He said he didn’t even go to his daughter’s house when he was in bloom. It was, in Kim Young-rang’s words, a “glorious spring of sadness.
The early female pros turned their attention to Japan. Four years later, in the spring of May 1982. Koo Ok-hee, Kang Chun-ja, and Ahn Jong-hyun were invited to play in the Japan Ladies Professional Golf (JLPGA) Tour World Ladies Golf Tournament at Tokyo Yomiuri Country Club in Tokyo, Japan. It was the first overseas outing for Korean women’s professional golf. Koo Ok-hee survived the final three rounds on her own and finished tied for 35th place.
Fast forward to the spring of May 1998, exactly 20 years after the first female professional was born. Korean women’s golf had taken another turn. Park Se-ri won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship on the United States Women’s Professional Golf (LPGA) Tour. It was Park’s first LPGA Tour victory and the first major title for a South Korean woman golfer. Her victory at the U.S. Women’s Open six weeks later, when she made the famous “barefoot shot,” came on the back of the confidence she gained at the LPGA Championship in May 메이저놀이터.
This spring, the phrase “hwa moo si eleven hong” came to the forefront thanks to the success of Disney+’s drama “Casino. The first four flowers of the Korean women’s golf team didn’t even have the luxury of ten days of red, but after 45 years of blooming and waning, they have now grown to 2,887 flowers. They have grown in size and color. The total prize money for the season exceeded 100 million won in 1989, 1 billion won in 1995, and 10 billion won in 2012. This year, the regular tour prize pool exceeded 30 billion won for the first time. There is a tournament almost every week from April to early November.
Kang Chun-ja, who was 22 when she first turned pro, worked for the KLPGA for many years before retiring in April. “My sister Ok-hee, who was the same age, died in Japan in vain, and my sister Myung-hyun, who led the association together, struggled and left without seeing the good days,” he said. Ahn Jong-hyun, who was a year younger than Kang Chun-ja and Koo Ok-hee because he was born in January, died at the ripe old age of 27 from acute leukemia.